Manufacturing expands in U.S., Asia; euro zone still lags
A worker cut steel bars at a steel plant in Ganyu
By Angela Moon
New York (Reuters) - Manufacturing activity in the United States and in Asia's industrial powerhouses China and Japan expanded further in June but euro zone growth faltered as main motor Germany slowed.
The U.S. manufacturing sector gained more momentum in June, driven by the fastest growth in output and new orders in over four years, an industry report showed on Tuesday.
Financial data firm Markit said its final U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index rose to 57.3 in June, the highest since May 2010, although it was slightly lower than the preliminary read of 57.5.
A separate report from the Institute for Supply Management showed its index of national factory activity was at 55.3, little changed from May's 55.4 reading.
The average ISM PMI was 53.9 for 2013, which turned out to be a very strong year, and the average of 2014 so far is 54 which indicates "that we are in a positive trend," Bradley J. Holcomb, chair of ISM Manufacturing Business Survey Committee, said in a conference call with reporters.
Business surveys published on Tuesday confirmed factory output expanded across Asia following months of decline in its two biggest economies, as massive stimulus packages in Beijing and Tokyo begin to take effect.
China's final HSBC/Markit Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) rose to 50.7, above the 50 mark that separates growth from contraction for the first time in six months. The official China PMI, geared more towards bigger state-owned firms, hit a six-month high of 51.0.
"The Chinese numbers were good. The authorities are helping, they are supporting, they are guiding the economy in the direction they want it to go in," said Peter Dixon, economist at Commerzbank.
In contrast, measures announced last month by the European Central Bank to counter the threat of deflation and support growth by boosting lending have yet to show any impact.
Markit's final Manufacturing PMI for the euro zone fell to 51.8 in June from May's 52.2, the lowest reading since November.
"The ECB is going to be looking at these numbers in the coming months and hoping that we see a bit more of a pick-up. Let's check in six months' time if the ECB needs to do any more," Dixon said.
Stock markets firmed after the China data, which reinforced market views that the world's second-largest economy is steadying thanks to stimulus from Beijing.
Those measures include reserve requirement cuts for some banks to encourage more lending, quicker fiscal disbursements and hastening construction of railways and public housing.
"Efforts to slash overcapacities in old-fashioned industries, as well as the housing market downturn ... will continue to weigh on overall economic activity," said Nikolaus Keis at UniCredit.
In Japan, central bank and PMI surveys painted a similar picture of improving factory activity, supported by continued hefty central bank money injections and government spending.
Japan's PMI topped the 50-point mark for the first time in three months but with an April sales tax rise still acting as a drag, the Bank of Japan's business optimism gauge dipped in the second quarter. Still, firms were optimistic about the outlook, declaring readiness to boost capital investment and output.
"It was still a good result. The Tankan result supports the Bank of Japan's upbeat view on the economy," said Takuji Aida at Societe Generale.
In Indonesia, Southeast Asia's largest economy, factory activity grew at its fastest pace on record and in India, the continent's third-largest economy, it hit a four-month high.
BRITAIN LEADS EUROPE
British factories followed Asia's lead, increasing activity at the fastest rate in seven months while creating new jobs in at the briskest pace in more than three years.
Euro zone unemployment was stable for the second consecutive month in May at 11.6 percent but the pace of factory growth eased on a deepening contraction in the bloc's second biggest economy France. Germany was again the driving force, helped by a resurgence in the bloc's periphery countries, although its PMI dipped due to public holidays.
"The slowdown will put pressure on policymakers at the ECB to do more to prevent the recovery from stalling, and we will no doubt see more calls for full-scale quantitative easing to be implemented," said Chris Williamson, Markit's chief economist.
The ECB cut its deposit rate below zero last month and suggested rates will remain at record lows for years.
By contrast, the Bank of England is widely expected to be the first major central bank to begin tightening policy, possibly as soon as this year.
"Manufacturing is growing strongly, and work flows suggest this has legs," said David Tinsley at BNP Paribas. "As this news flow is absorbed further, rate hike expectations for the first hike in Q4 this year should harden."
(Reporting by Xiao Shao and Kevin Yao in Beijing, Tomasz Janowski, Stanley White, Leika Kihara and Tetsushi Kajimoto in Tokyo, Christine Kim and Choonsik Yoo in Seoul, Nilufar Rizki in Jakarta, Anu Bararia in Bangalore and Jonathan Cable and Ana Nicolaci da Costa in London; Editing by Catherine Evans and Chizu Nomiyama)